Professor Philip Davies BSc(Eng), DPhil, CEng, MIMechE, SFHEA

Professor Philip Davies

School of Engineering
Professor of Water Technology

Contact details

University of Birmingham
B15 2TT

Philip Davies has over 35 years of academic and industrial research experience. The aim of his current research is to achieve sustainable treatment and utilization of water resources in arid regions. His research areas include: desalination and water re-use, solar-powered cooling using seawater, seawater greenhouse technology, and negative emissions technologies. These areas contribute to the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals.

Philip participates in several international collaborations in regions including North Africa, the Middle East and the Indian sub-continent.

In 2018, his work gained the Green Gown ‘Research with Impact’ Award, for studies that led to the development of cooling and desalination technologies to create seawater greenhouses that are enabling food to be grown sustainably in arid world regions.

He is currently Principal Investigator in eight research projects, including bIo-mimetic and phyto-techNologies DesIgned for low-cost purificAtion and recycling of water, which he is coordinating. For more information on this project, please visit the India-H2O website.


  • 2015, Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy
  • 2007, Postgraduate Certificate in Learning and Teaching for Higher Education (Aston University)
  • 2001, Member of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers and Chartered Engineer
  • 1990, D.Phil, Green College, University of Oxford
  • 1984, B.Sc.(Eng), Mechanical Engineering, Imperial College, London


Philip qualified with a BSc (First Class Honours) in Mechanical Engineering from Imperial College in 1984. He gained industrial experience as a graduate apprentice at W. H. Allen Ltd, Bedford, before going on to study for a DPhil in biomedical engineering at the University of Oxford.

In 1990, he was awarded a bursary from the European Commission to carry out research at the Institute of Solar Energy, Polytechnic University of Madrid, enabling him to develop research interests in the field of renewable energy. In 1993, he was employed as Project Engineer by Light Works Ltd to develop the first prototype seawater greenhouse in Tenerife. He continued to gain industrial experience until 2003, during which period he contributed to the development of commercial products in the telecommunications, energy and medical sectors – some of which are still marketed today.

In 2003, Philip was awarded an Industry Fellowship from the Royal Society, enabling him to continue research work on seawater greenhouses – including renewable energy and desalination technology – in collaboration with Seawater Greenhouse Ltd, London, and hosted by University of Warwick. Philip resumed a full-time academic career when he was appointed in 2005 as Lecturer at Aston University, progressing later to Senior Lecturer and Reader, also serving as Associate Dean of Research and as of Head of Group (Mechanical Engineering and Design). He has taught courses in Sustainable Product Design, Engineering Design & the Natural Environment, Renewable Energy, and Water Treatment Technologies.

In 2018, Philip was appointed Professorial Research Fellow at the School of Engineering, University of Birmingham, where he is pursuing research topics and innovations in the areas of water technology and the water-energy-food nexus.

Postgraduate supervision

Philip would be interested to supervise research students in areas including desalination, water treatment, renewable energy applications, and climate change.


The world’s arid regions are experiencing increasing resource scarcity and population growth. Issues of water, energy and food security are ever more important and frequently interlinked. The research takes an interdisciplinary approach to address such issues. It spans a number of related areas including:

Sustainable Desalination

Desalination is increasingly important to maintain supplies of water for drinking and agriculture. The research in this area aims to minimise the energy consumption of desalination processes, and to design them so that they can be powered by renewable energy sources. It also aims to minimise problems associated with the brine discharged. For inland desalination, a unique batch reverse osmosis process is being developed to minimise the volume of brine. For seawater desalination, we are investigating means to reap benefit from the brine; for example, by using it to absorb carbon dioxide. We are also developing desalination technologies to reuse and conserve water in industries, such as metal plating, using membrane technologies including reverse and forward osmosis.

Solar-powered cooling

Because arid regions are typically hot regions, there is an increasing need for sustainable cooling technologies alongside desalination. This need is being accelerated by climate change. We are investigating solar-power desalination technologies that exploit humidity variations in the air in contact with seawater and seawater brine, using solar energy to achieve the required concentrations of such brine. These technologies also recover freshwater for irrigation.

Seawater greenhouse technology

Seawater greenhouses have been developed to enable crop cultivation along arid coastlines, with installations in the Middle East, Australia and the Horn of Africa. The research on desalination and solar-powered cooling has contributed to the development of this technology. It has included modelling of wind interaction for ventilation and cooling, and system design for the optimal use of electricity generated by solar photovoltaics.

Water re-use for bioenergy

In this collaborative area of research, we are investigating management and treatment of wastewater through irrigation of bioenergy crops in wetlands. This is linked to research into conversion of the resulting crops in bioenergy systems, based on thermal power cycles and on internal combustion engines. Fuel blends have been developed that allow several non-conventional fuels to be used.

Negative emissions technologies

This is an area of growing importance to counter global warming. Besides the research into carbon dioxide removal using desalination brines, research has also begun into removal of other greenhouse gases like methane. We are researching the feasibility of solar chimney power plants serving as giant photocatalytic reactors to destroy atmospheric methane. We are also investigating the net emissions of treatment wetlands.

Current and recent research projects include:

2010-24: Intelligent Water Treatment Technologies for water preservation combined with simultaneous energy production and material recovery in energy intensive industries – intelWATT, supported by the EU Horizon 2020 programme.

2020-24: Batch Reverse Osmosis (RO): Desalination with minimum wastage of energy and water, supported by the EPSRC.

2020-24: STEPforGGR_Solar up-draft tower to enable atmospheric photocatalysis for non-CO2 greenhouse gases removal: an emerging negative emission technology, supported by the EU RISE programme.

2020-22: Investigation and optimization of design parameters for reverse osmosis(RO) and photo-catalytic water desalination and treatment systems to protect groundwater, in partnership with NRC Egypt. Supported by British Council and STRF.

2019-23: INDIA H2O, a consortium involving 20 partners from EU and India. Coordinated by the University of Birmingham, this project is funded by the Horizon 2020 programme and by the Department of Biotechnology (Government of India).

2015-18: Sustainable Intensification of Agriculture in the Horn of Africa, led by Seawater Greenhouse Ltd, and supported by the Innovate UK/DFID Agritech Catalyst Programme.

Awards (recent): 

2018: Green Gown Award, Research with Impact category

2017: Sustainable Water Industry Group (SWIG)

Other activities

  • Board member of the European Desalination Society (2021-)
  • Member of the Board of PhD Studies in Chemical, Environmental, Biomedical, Hydraulic and Materials Engineering at the University of Palermo (2021-)
  • Member of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers and Chartered Engineer (2001–)


Book chapters

  • M. T. Mito and P. A. Davies, Towards Energy-efficient Reverse Osmosis, chapter in Membrane Desalination, Edt. A. Sapalidis, CRC Press, 2020
  • P. A. Davies: Sustainable energy systems for seawater reverse osmosis, chapter in Emerging Membrane Technology for Sustainable Water Treatment and Supply, edts. N. Hankins and R. Singh, Elsevier, 2016.


  • PCT/GB2019/051208, Desalination System and Method (filed 2019)
  • GB2334593, Positioning mechanism with flexible members, Inventor P. A. Davies (granted 2002)
  • US6555983, Positioning apparatus and method, Inventor P. A. Davies (granted 2003)

View all publications in research portal